I’m not sure what the weather is like where you live, but in Washington, D.C., the past couple days have been cold. It’s been in the low 40s each morning, and yesterday it got below 32°F. As someone who lived in the Carolinas for many years, this is not ideal. Give me 95°F over 35°F any day!
Besides my obvious preference for heat, there is another reason why the coming of the cold weather would bother me, particularly as a friar: sandals. A slab of rubber and a few straps. That’s not exactly ideal for the freezing weather on its way, or for the rain that we could get at anytime of year for that matter. So what does a friar do? Are friars allowed to wear something with their habit other than sandals?
For many, it might sound like a silly question, but it was a highly controversial one at the start of the order (and actually one that surfaced many times in our history), and is a question that I get asked very frequently. I met a friend for lunch one day and he asked, “So… is there are point in your formation when you are allowed to wear closed-toe shoes, like when you’re ordained?” For him, and the many people that see me walking around in sandals when the temperature is in the 30s and 40s, sandals are a penitential act. While this may have been a part of charism at one point in our history, that is not why we wear them today. At least not the primary reason.
Friars are allowed to wear whatever they want with their habit, although, I have to say, not everything should be allowed (I’m looking at you friars that wear white sneakers, and don’t get me started about the socks and sandals guys!) Sandals are an iconic part of the habit, something that people identify with us, and so many people do wear them, but there is nothing intrinsically linked between the sandals and our vocation. For the most part, the decision is based on comfort (especially for older friars and ones with medical issues) and style.
But style doesn’t explain why I continue to wear them even into freezing weather. Sure, I like the aesthetic and think the image is pretty iconic, but there’s more to it than that. For me, there is symbolic value to the sandals that bring me closer to God and the poor.
I hope you enjoy the video! (Click here for email subscribers.) I’m working on a regular blog post now, but just a heads up for the faithful: it’s midterm time at Catholic University, so two major projects and a midterm might keep me detained for a while! Keep me in your prayers!